To the silent members of LGBTQ plus community,
At 14 years old, Clawdeena9 was what I called my YouTube channel as opposed to what I called myself. During that time, I was someone who felt angry and unheard. So, I grabbed a bottle of pills and took a handful. When I realized I regretted taking the pills, I told my sister and I was rushed to the hospital. I didn’t attempt suicide because I wanted to die. I attempted suicide because I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted someone to hear me even though, like you, I was living in silence.
Starting in fifth grade, I tried to be someone, anyone, other than myself.
Fifth grade was the year I wore a purple shirt to school and some of the other kids made fun of me, calling me gay. Both of my parents are ordained ministers. Being gay, queer or transgender was a big no.
I thought to myself, “I can’t be that. That can’t be me.”
I did everything to try and make sure it wasn’t me.
When my classmates started saying my voice was feminine, I went on YouTube and looked up videos on how to deepen my voice and disguise my femininity. Talking a lot less and isolating myself became strategies to blend in with the other boys in school.
Also, I would study the guys around me, attempting to mimic their body language. I would copy how my male classmates would sit, slouching and putting my arm on my thigh just to appear more masculine.
Trying to be someone I wasn’t caused me to develop such bad anxiety, I couldn’t focus on the chalkboard at school. From fifth to eighth grade, I struggled so much that I often had to be taken out of school to be homeschooled.
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While I started a YouTube channel when I was 10 years old, called Clawdeena9, for a while it just felt like I was living a double life, instead of living as one whole person. The name of my channel was inspired by a doll but it wasn’t my name. People called me Matt.
I made friends online and met my first boyfriend. He lived in Tennessee. While my parents didn’t know the nature of our relationship, at 13 years old I begged them to take me from Florida where we lived, to Tennessee to hang out with him. During the trip, my boyfriend and I took pictures of us kissing and holding hands. One day my mother found the pictures on my laptop and she and my sister, with my consent, told my dad that I was gay. My whole family embraced me and told me they loved me unconditionally.
Coming out to my family was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. But I still suffered from a lot of anxiety because I bottled up my feelings and didn’t feel comfortable at school.
By eighth grade, I was out. No longer was I offended by being called gay but rather I was hurt by the way my classmates treated me. Defined by my sexuality – I wasn’t a name. I wasn’t a person. I was the gay kid.
That’s when I tried to kill myself. That’s when I swallowed all of those pills. I was 14 and while my sexuality was out, my emotions remained locked inside of me. After that extremely low moment, I stopped putting on a facade and started to learn to open up.
Expressing my feelings brought my family together and I began to feel whole.
Also, on my YouTube channel, I started creating stop motions with dolls, which is a form of animation. It became my way of coping with life, as I could create stories and music videos that paralleled situations in real life.
People started calling me by my self-given drag name, Marissa, but I realized I didn’t identify as a drag queen and Marissa wasn’t how I wanted to be addressed. So I eventually decided I was and I am Clawdeena. Through Clawdeena, I have been able to embrace my femininity, exploring what I do and don’t like as far as clothes, a look and every other aspect of my being.
Stop motions eventually transitioned into makeup. For years, I loved to do makeup on other people but when I discovered I could do makeup on myself I became enamored with the art of transformation. Even to this day, I think transformation, regardless of gender and sexuality, is a very invigorating experience. With makeup, I can be a chameleon, as opposed to forcing my identity into a box someone else built. It also introduced me to a community of fellow makeup artists, transformists and doll enthusiasts.
Right now, I am not entirely sure how I identify my gender. I am more in the non-binary category, living fluidly between my femininity and my masculinity. I strongly believe that there is no black and white. We’re all human and living a very human experience. With that said, I’m proud to be queer and part of the LGBTQ plus community and I hope you are too.
However, if you are currently struggling, I want you to know that life is very hard but it does get better. Whatever challenges you face, your feelings are real and valid. Even so, it’s important that you know that life will change – not necessarily because circumstances change but you will learn to make different choices.
Now, I am 20 years old. There are days I still struggle with depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts. In these low moments, I choose to text a crisis center or speak to a clinician. The important part of self-love isn’t always loving yourself, but taking the appropriate action when you need help.
My past includes a lot of pain, but I don’t regret or resent any of the experiences I have gone through because it all led me to Clawdeena.
As Clawdeena, I am living my life with confidence, not because I found a way to explain my identity to others but because I now possess the courage to use different forms of self-expression to freely discover who I am within myself.
With tremendous pride,